The past weekend at Eastern Michigan University was filled with celebrations and events in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Every year, people around the country gather to recognize the incredible accomplishments and impact he’s had on our society.
Some of the events at EMU included an art showcase, a commemorative march, a luncheon and theatre performances, among other events. As a diverse community, we have much to be thankful for regarding King’s work.
The area has a connection to the work of King, as he made a trip to the area in November 1962. Speaking at University of Michigan’s Hill Auditorium, the visit sparked a controversy. During his speech he promoted student civil disobedience and its importance in the civil rights movement. The Board of Regents were not happy with this, and some of them raised concern over the speech.
The Board of Regents changed their tune, however, in the late-1960s when they passed a resolution memorializing King and created the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund. King also visited Michigan State University in 1965, where he spoke to a crowd of over 4,000 students.
As students of a diverse campus, we should take note of the ideas King promoted. We should be united, and if something threatens members of our community, we have to take action. Civil disobedience is a way to get those in power to listen without resorting to violence.
To commemorate King, the University of Michigan puts on the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium. The symposium includes lectures, workshops and community service projects that live up to the ideals King envisioned. Students take the ideas King promoted and turn them into tangible efforts to improve the community. Taking action to better the community is the best way to remember King.
It’s important to remember King’s legacy in the context of modern society, and it’s equally important to remember how he accomplished these things. Should we find ourselves facing discrimination once again in our society, studying the journey of King will be valuable in fighting for equality.
In 1955, King served as the leader of the Montgomery bus boycott, which was one of his first major undertakings as a civil rights leader. His spirit and energy put new life into the civil rights struggle in Alabama. In 1957, King was one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The purpose of the group was to organize the power of black churches and to coordinate their civil rights efforts.
King was also a strong advocate for non-violent protest. After organizing a peaceful protest in Birmingham, Ala. in 1963, he was arrested. In his letter from the Birmingham jail, he said, “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community, which has constantly refused to negotiate, is forced to confront the issue."
Later that year, King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington.
As a civil rights leader, King’s work helped shift public opinion and resulted in major victories for the civil rights movement. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, and King was present. The law banned discrimination in employment and public accommodations. The law also banned other forms of discrimination. King also continued to advocate for a law to ban discriminatory practices that often denied African-Americans the right to vote. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law.
Martin Luther King Jr. helped move our society to be more just and equitable. Students at EMU are incredibly proud of our diversity on campus, and we will not forget the positive impact he’s had on our community and our country. And while studying the work of King is important, living up to his vision of a unified nation is the best way to remember his legacy.